Sept/Oct 2010

Capacity building in the midst of a crisis

Golder employees support sustainable enterprise development to aid orphans

By Heather Ednie

Carlos Vilanculos's mission station, with the aid of GTO, supports 180 children | Photo courtesy of Golder Associates


It is a daunting statistic: By the end of 2007, nearly 12 million children were orphaned in sub-Saharan Africa due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Recognizing this growing disaster, in 2003 Golder Associates founded the Golder Trust for Orphans (GTO) to provide support to orphaned and displaced children and families in Africa. The GTO provides financial aid to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) caring for orphans through one-time grants and equity funding directed towards development projects that help them sustain their own activities. To date, the GTO’s efforts have supported over 1,000 children through 10 projects.

In 2005, when Lea Chambers, a marketing and communications professional with a passion for sustainable development, joined Golder Associates, few employees knew about the GTO. So Chambers helped to create a strategy to raise awareness for the program. This included developing a network of champions at each of the 160 global offices. These champions took on the challenge of raising funds for, and boosting awareness of, the GTO within the organization.

By the end of 2009, over US$1 million was raised for the GTO. About 40 per cent came from monthly payroll deductions offered by Golder staff, and another 40 per cent from local Golder office fundraisers. “We have offices doing stuff every month — from bake sales to volleyball tournaments,” says Chambers. The final 20 per cent was raised through external donations, mainly from clients and friends of employees.

Developing expertise

Funding is awarded to projects based on a set strategy. Organizations seeking funding for their projects are referred to GTO manager and Golder Africa employee, Jon Howcroft, who meets with the organization for an initial evaluation to determine if the baseline criteria are met. Following that, at least one of the other trustees meets with the organization for a second-look assessment, and Howcroft then requests a proposal with a proper business plan. Projects must focus on orphan support and caring and have at least a five-year history to be considered for funding. In addition, its directors must be open to an interview as well as a site inspection. The board of trustees then evaluates the proposals and awards funding annually.

“Our strategy is to work with a small number of organizations and continue to help them through multiple projects,” Chambers explains. “This way, we can see real benefits from our efforts. We see them grow, and we grow with them over time.”

Golder representatives sit on the board of directors of some of the organizations the company supports, offering business advice. “We have varying expertise to help them, and fill their ‘need’ gaps,” Chambers says.

Mission Station of Carlos Vilanculos – Massinga District, Mozambique

Since 2002, Carlos Vilanculos has been using his family’s farm to help his community. He dug a well to access clean water, cleared a large area to grow food, taught reading and writing, and launched a medical aid service for people with HIV/AIDS. Some of his patients asked Vilanculos to take care of their children when they died. He currently has six orphans living with him, and is supplying food and clothing to 180 more.

With financial support from the GTO, Vilanculos built an irrigation system, basic greenhouse facilities and planted a field of pineapples. Proceeds from the sale of produce generate funds to care for the children.

In 2009, the GTO donated US$15,000 to fund the construction and maintenance of three chicken coops. Vilanculos now supplies broiler chickens raised on the farm to the local community. Proceeds from the sale of the chickens are used to buy food, clothing, notebooks and pencils for the children.

This year, Vilanculos submitted a proposal to buy pigs, in order to generate more income, and solar panels to reduce his reliance on petrol.

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